Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Day 14 - Nice ... Museums, Monasteries and Meals Out

"One perfect day, I'll go out walking ..." Did; it was; so there.

Today was museum day but before that, it was fix the crutch of your pants day. The new strides I had purchased in Tamworth split across the cross over seems, down where the sun don't shine, leaving me me with additional ventilation. Thanks to good work by our hotel and some dead reckoning using maps when the GPS proved useless, we managed to navigate, via bus and walking, to a first floor clothing repair place. As usual, there was a negotiation over language but once the tear was displayed - not in situ I hasten to add - all was understood. I'll pick them up tomorrow for 10E.

Just around the corner was the first of our museums, the Theatre de la Photographie et de l'Image. Dedicated entirely to photography, it has the best static display of cameras I have seen. Whether it be the old box brownie or the large format Calumets of the 1960 or the Japanese revolution of the 1970 ... even a camera designed in the shape and livery of a Coke can ... they had it all. They have an eighty seat theatre where they host talks and show classic French films but the feature was an exhibition of the splendid urban landscapes of Stephane Couturier. His photographs are like a commentary on change, warning against the over abundance of technology destroying the history of older architecture. He often shoots buildings full face forward with no angles to distort and the symmetry of an architectural plan. It was fascinating.

Christo's plan to wrap
Little Bay, Sydney, with

We walked a few more kms to MAMAC - the Museum of Modern Art & Culture - housed in a building which a statement of modern art itself. The four floors are a hexagon around a central court yard and each level provides more of a look at the city around you. The are six galleries per floor house a really interesting collection of works from modern art, including a small section on one of Sue's favourites, the original wrapper, Christo. A sketch for his then planned cover up of part of the Sydney coastline in the 1970's was there: poignant for me, because as a teenager I walked over the canvas and poly ropes and wondered what the hell it was all about. Niki de Saint Phalle and the three featured exhibitions on the ground floor from Klein, Byars and Kapoor were very clever and quite affecting, especially the Mumbai Man, Kapoor, and his big red sphere being swept every few hours by a metal boom.

For me, the most intriguing was Yves Klein and his nouveau realism, his use of ultramarine blue in a way Brett Whiteley may have approved of and his photo-montages, especially Leap Into The Void. It shows him leaping from a tall fence in a swan dive with no apparent concern for his landing. It is an act of Zen belief that the artist is no longer subject to worldly consequences. Yeah, I smoked those cigarettes too.

We walked into the Place Garibaldi, a large space where the Pallion once flowed at the surface but now rushes through pipes whilst trams, cars and people dominate. We ate, watched people and pigeons and reminded ourselves that this wasn't Cafe 2340.

Musee Matisse in centre with
Roman ruins around it

We rode the town tour bus up Cimiez Hill to the Musee Matisse, housed in a villa which dates back to 1670, when Jean-Baptiste Gubernatis, Consol of Nice, created it as his home beside the Roman ruins which are still being investigated by to this day and possibly even tomorrow. Henri Matisse, like many artists, started out as an expert with pencil and crayon but hell, so did I. I'm sure Miss Wyndham thought I had a touch of the Matisse's about me in my early drawings but its what you do that's different that makes your mark. In French, ennui (pronounced hone-re) means a form of boredom which comes about from having too much time on your hands. Clearly, ennui was not Henri, for the man never stopped. He was a mate of Picasso and hung out in the 1920's with the famous Paris crowd highlighted by Woody Allen in Midnight In Paris. Some say he was influenced by drugs and alcohol, which may have been the case as he was never seen without Cones and Steins.

It was in the 1940, after not only his wife but his colon left him and he was confirmed to a wheelchair, that he began what was a career defining move into cutting out paper shapes and placing them on contrasting backgrounds. His use of shape was influenced by a visit he had made to the Pacific fifteen years earlier. Arguably his best work, Blue Nude IV was a stunning experience to stand before and one was left to wonder the shape and colour had on a young Australian painter with wild orange hair in the 1970's.

Church of the Franciscans
After our piece de Matisse, we climbed further up the hill to the Franciscan Monastery. Set in delightful grounds high on Cimiez Hill, the church contains frescoes and sculptures depicting the life of Christ, with most ornate colours and decorations focus on the sanctuary. I was left wondering how dull and dark it must have been before electricity provided highlighting to direct your attention. It was also exceptionally hot inside with hardly any relief from the sun outside. I committed a faux paux taking a picture inside the church. I honestly missed the instructions outside. Sue enjoyed chipping a young American for the same innocent offence. It appears there is still work to do. The gardens were a sea of colours, with scotch thistles being a feature! From the view at the top we could see the little dwelling built for Queen Victoria when she came for a visit in the 1890's. Its now a 60 room hotel!

We flopped back to our room down across the road from the beach (just thought I should throw that in there), exhausted from a long day. Sue slipped her bikini skin on, full of threats to let the dogs out - they're too old to be called puppies - during her cooling visit across the road. Its common practice on the beaches in the south of France for women to swim topless but mostly the older ones, who could all do with a good iron. Some of the young Italian women take the option, playing at being Gina Lollobrigida, always accompanied by boyfriend photographers, playing at being Giovanni Gastel. Excited by news of her impending public over exposure, I stayed in the room and caught up with emails.

Place Massena
Having intended to go out for something simple to eat, we walked a few more kms, past Place Messena and found a quiet restaurant with a French cook and an Albanian waitress which played Italian music (Andre Botticelli). The food was superb and three courses each and a bottle of red from Provence cost us less than $80AUD.

They serve the first two courses with bread at every meal.

We walked home through Place Massena, with its giant statue of Neptune standing in the centre of a huge fountain and the changing illuminated perspex figures which morph through different colours during the evening hours. They represent the seven continents of the world. Everything around us was colour and movement and excitement, a bit like the Country Music Festival on steroids ... massive doses of steroids ... of the order Lance Armstrong didn't take. The ears were assaulted by a potpourri of language and other sounds, like the donkey-kong of police sirens, the roar of the trams, buskers thumping it out for the holy euro, laughter ... all on a hot night full, generally, of good will.

Quite a day.

My final image of the day was as I was about to turn out the light. I looked out the window to see a bloke taking a leak in the alley below, against the wall of the Nice Opera House. I guess he didn't like Verdi. Not ten metres away, diners sat eating at the open air restaurant below. I caught the eye of the waiter, he looked up the alley and then back at me and shrugged.

PS Sue's threat remained under exposed. I'm now told I have to swim before she'll flash. Think I'll concentrate on those emails.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so enjoying reading your posts- I feel like I'm there with you! Sounds like you guys are having a magnificent time. I'm so glad you got to do this amazing trip... Squeeze every last moment from it- be safe-enjoy! xxx


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